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What Does the Term BIPOC Mean and Why Is It Important?

BIPOC
BIPOC stands for "Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. The term separates itself from other words like "marginalized" and "minority."

Mentions of gendered language, racism. 

If you spend time on social media or reading articles, then you may have come across the term “BIPOC.” For those who don’t know what this term means, it’s “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color,” and person-first language. Many people may have confused the term as meaning bisexual People of Color, but this is a misconception. In this article, we’ll talk more about what does the term BIPOC means and why it is important. 

What Does the Term BIPOC Mean?

As we just mentioned, BIPOC stands for “Black, Indigenous, and People of Color. The term separates itself from other words like “marginalized” and “minority.”

The reason for this is that even though these terms may be factually correct, they lack a sense of humanity. In other words, they do not clearly indicate that they are referring to people.

As a result, these terms can be generic descriptors that imply inferiority and a person being “less than.” 

What Does the Term “Black” Refer To?

“Black” is a term that often describes a person of African or Caribbean descent. While some people in the United States believe that the term “African American” is more “polite,” using this description isn’t always accurate. The reason for this is that some Black people may not be American, or their ancestry does not trace back to Africa.

Some Black people may identify themselves by the country their family came from. For example, this could include Kenyan American or Jamaican American.

What Does the Term Indigenous Refer To?

“Indigenous” describes the native people and inhabitants of North America. This term is a broad one that includes all tribes that the first residents of the continent.

However, for more specific terms, these could include:

  • Native Americans
  • First Nations
  • Native Alaskans or Alaska Natives

Even these terms are broad, considering there are 574 indigenous natives in the United States alone. The best practice is to use the specific tribe name when talking about a person or small group.

Where Did the Term First Pop Up?

The earliest reference to this term (as reported by The New York Times) was via a 2013 tweet. However, the phrase “people of color” itself goes back centuries. For example, it was first mentioned in The Oxford English Dictionary, using the British spelling “colour,” in 1796. Currently, it is abbreviated as POC. They added the other two letters in front of the acronym for black and Indigenous people to signify the erasure of black people who have darker skin and Native Americans.

Why Is the Term BIPOC Important?

BIPOC people all over the world experience racism regularly. According to a 2019 research review, Black men in the United States are at the highest risk of being killed by police officers than any other group of people. The other groups at the highest risk are indigenous people and Alaska Native men.

By choosing to use the word “BIPOC,” it can illuminate the very real and specific injustices that impact Black and Indigenous people.

“BIPOC” can also expand on the term “POC” in the following ways:

  • People of Color experience different types of discrimination and prejudice.
  • Systemic racism oppresses and profoundly impacts the lives of Black and Indigenous people in ways that other People of Color may not themselves experience.
  • Black and Indigenous people and communities still face the effects of slavery and genocide.

Overall, the term highlights the fact that Black and Indigenous people have a unique lived experience. Their experience can include specific violence, cultural erasure, and discrimination. 

BIPOC LGBTQ+ Folks and Mental Health Barriers 

LGBTQ+ people who are BIPOC encounter barriers to mental health treatment and care because of their justified mistrust of the medical community. In addition, high uninsurance rates can impact their access to care, along with other societal obstacles. To put it into perspective, in the United States, more than 28% of LGBTQ+ adults of color have no health insurance coverage.

While LGBTQ+ adults of color may experience similar rates of mental health issues as other LGBTQ+ adults, they do not receive equal rates of diagnoses. For example, 29% of LGBTQ+ adults of color had been diagnosed with a depressive disorder via a provider compared to 39% of the LGBTQ+ adults. In addition, only 35% of LGBTQ+ youth of color could undergo emotional counseling.

All About the LGBTQ+ Acronym: What is Two-Spirit?

What Are Some Antiracism Resources?

This article only scratches the surface of issues that BIPOC people experience in our world. To find out more about antiracist resources and to fight against white supremacy, check out the following:

In Summary 

Using the right acronyms like BIPOC are one step in advocating for BIPOC people’s rights; however, there is so much more work to be done to fight against racial bias. 

It is essential to include everyone and amplify BIPOC voices. When you can understand the unique challenges that various groups face and how that can affect them, it will lead to creating more positive change.

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Billie Olsen

AUTHOR: Billie Olsen

Billie Olsen (she/they) is a lifestyle writer, disability justice advocate, and cozy femme located in Kelowna, BC, Canada. Their works have appeared in Metro News, Discorder, Sophomore Magazine, the Post-Feminist Post, DINE Magazine, and NerdReader.

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